Heatwaves force early Spanish wine harvests

STORY: The heatwaves gripping Europe - influenced by climate change - has forced some Spanish vineyards to pick their grapes at night, to avoid working in the sweltering daytime.

They've also been forced to start harvesting a few weeks earlier in the season due to the temperatures and drought.

This family-owned vineyard near Madrid is one example.

Grapes are usually harvested in mid-September, but they began here on August 24th.

One of the grape pickers is also the daughter of the winery owner Marta Morate.

“It is far more comfortable because of the temperature, because as you are getting tired, temperatures also drop. In the morning, from 10:30 or 11:00 you cannot be out here on the field.”

Climate change has left parts of the Iberian peninsula at its driest in 1,200 years.

That's according to a study published last month in the Nature Geoscience journal.

Spain has suffered three unusually long heatwaves this summer that have stoked devastating wildfires.

Working at night, from sundown till 2 or 3 a.m., has its benefits not only for the pickers, but also for the grapes before they are pressed to make wine, according to vineyard owner Andres Morate.

“The main reason is so people can work in optimal conditions. There are benefits for the grapes too, clearly, because the cooler the grape is when it gets to the cellar, the less we have to bring down the temperature to control it. We all benefit.”

Morate prides himself on sustainable, eco-friendly production without the use of chemical fertilizers or irrigation.

He says that for the best results the grapes need to develop at a gradual pace from when they form on the vine to when they are harvested.

But of late, the weather has fast-tracked that process, to detrimental effect.

For the pickers, though, it's just been a relief to be out of the midday sun.